It’s strange (look, I made a pun only two words in!) to see Dr. Strange on DVD. Yes, it was released over a month ago at this point, but I can still remember when Ultimate Avengers hit. We hadn’t seen anything from Strange except a blurb that it was “coming soon.” After the boring film that The Invincible Iron Man was, I was none too eager to watch Dr. Strange too soon. After finally sitting down to check it out, I discovered a film that was what I figured it’d be: quick, lifeless and promising “bigger” things, should a sequel come about.
Dr. Strange is told through the character Dr. Stephen Strange, who, after getting into a horrible car accident and losing the ability to use his hands (thus ending his career as a surgeon), turns to a Tibetan monk, named the Ancient One, to seek healing. Upon discovering the monk and learning of the mystical and magical universe and the powers that surround him, Dr. Strange becomes a Sorcerer Supreme and is able to save the world from a terrible, evil force that is slowly closing in on it.
That is quite literally all Dr. Strange has to offer. The film wastes fifty minutes setting up the character of Strange and training him, with intermittent shots of other sorcerers protecting the world from the impending evils and after Strange fully realizes his powers, he has a quick, albeit impressive, fight against someone he once called an ally and quickly takes down the big baddie in the end in a matter of minutes.
I feel the biggest flaw with Dr. Strange, and, hell, all of the Animated Marvel Features, is the need to establish characters. Ultimate Avengers bypassed this slightly by not giving us unnecessary amounts of background info on all the characters, but with Iron Man and Dr. Strange, the tales too entirely too long to come to fruition. I realize cutting the character exposition short hinders the way the audience can feel about the character, but really…taking over fifty minutes to introduce our main character and to get him trained seems obnoxious in a film that’s not even a hundred minutes long. Training montages, no matter how cliché, do help progress the story to the action more—but the actual villain plot in the film is so thin, I guess cutting down the training would’ve just shattered the run time.
Another issue is, despite this long set-up time, Strange seems to succumb to the fact that magic is real a little too easily. Sure his last name is Strange, but I don’t know how he gave in so freely—then again he did walk through miles of snow to meet up with a strange monk in the mountains, so really…at that point, I guess he was willing to believe whatever to get his hands back.
A strange thing of this film is the entire thing is nearly summed up on the description printed on the back of the DVD insert. In two paragraphs the insert sums up the entire history of Dr. Strange and leaves only the ending unknown. Again, I know this is an origin film, but it’s kind of annoying to waste so much time on an origin when we likely won’t see another film highlighting this character (even though the film is set up as something like Star Wars, with Strange now becoming the master and seeking to train some “promising” new students to become Jed…I mean, Sorcerers).
One thing this film had going for it, however, was the animation. There was really gorgeous looking backgrounds and sets in this film. My mouth dropped a bit during the early shot of Strange in his office, with the images on the wall. It was fantastically lit and looked wonderful—I was really impressed by this and when combined with the fight choreography during the Strange/Mordo fight, the animation really stood out. The CGI kind of muddled things up, but it was forgivable—it didn’t stand out nearly as much as it did in Iron Man, so hopefully we’ll get some decent CGI integrated into these films in the future.
On the voice actor side, there really isn’t too much to say. None of the actors stood out and even Dr. Strange’s voice didn’t jump out at me at first. The only voice I recognized was Kevin Michael Richardson as Mordo—although his voice is hard not to miss. No one came off as weak to me, which is a highlight in of itself; its better that you not notice the actors rather than notice them for a flubbed or a poorly delivered line.
Overall Dr. Strange joins the other array of animated Marvel films in being just mediocre. The story really goes nowhere until the very end and then the audience is just left wondering what cool things we could see next, should there be a “next.” Or, like me, they could also be wondering if they’re the only one who thinks of Taco Bell every time “Sorcerer Supreme” was said during the film. Mmmm…beefy.
Continuing the line of beautiful looking covers for their films, Dr. Strange is no slouch. Fully foil reflective, embossed and full of great art, the packaging for Dr. Strange is eye-catching. Why they had to mar both the slip cover and the actual insert with the “Also Includes the Best Of Marvel Video Game Cinematics”, I don’t know—I would’ve liked to have seen it without Spider-Man throwing devil horns on the cover. Disc art mirrors the cover and menus are simple and easy to navigate, with a bit of music and animation on the main menu.
Video and audio for this release was superb. I didn’t notice a bit of MPEG compression or interlacing/ghosting during the transfer, which is a very welcome surprise. The film looks great and the wide array of colors in it was simply stunning to watch. Even if the movie was disappointing, the animation was not and this transfer really allowed it to be showcased properly (I’ve no doubt the Blu-Ray release is even more impressive). A Dolby Surround 5.1 track is included and is a thunderous track—almost needlessly so. I love bass as much as the next guy, but the track here seemed to overachieve, most of the times making the room rumble with the slightest bit of action on screen. There was a particular thunder crack during the film, however, that actually made me jump. It sounded so loud and clear and my subwoofer belted it out so fast, I thought it actually came from outside.
Moving onto the special features we have the aforementioned “Best Of” cinematics from the various Marvel video games. They look nice and they tell a somewhat cohesive story but they’re far from being worth ruining the cover art with the giant corner advertisement. After these cinematics, from the “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” and “X-Men Legends II” video games, we have a short “Who Is Doctor Strange” featurette, which tells the origins of the character and features interviews with the artists who drew him and the writers who scribed him, this featurette is able to sum up the character in under fifteen minutes, which is kind of sad considering the character is actually one of the more unique Marvel creations.
A two-minute concept art gallery is included and a first look at the next Marvel DTV, Avengers Reborn, is included as well. Oddly enough this new DTV is appearing to go for a lower age bracket than the past four have. Then again, these four movies have hardly used their PG-13 ratings in the least—I’ve really no idea how these Marvel DTVs continue to get rated so high, there’s nothing that offensive in them and there is never that much blood, only the occasional swear word gets through (which isn’t even in the reasons for it being rated PG-13).
Overall, like the film, the DVD is disappointing. Undoubtedly those who have enjoyed the Marvel Animated Features line will want to add it to their collection and Dr. Strange fans will no doubt enjoy the film regardless, but for the casual viewer, the film and DVD are worth a Rental at best. I wanted to enjoy the film, but it just didn’t fire on all the cylinders it could have and fell short of what it could have been. Hopefully we’ll get more heart and effort in these DTVs in the future—they’re a great opportunity to tell stories about characters that aren’t Wolverine and Spider-Man, but so far it’s been wasted just trying to get these films out at a rapid rate.
Doctor Strange is now on DVD and Blu-Ray.